Co-transactivation of the 3' erythropoietin hypoxia inducible enhancer by the HIF-1 protein.


Journal Article

Erythropoietin (Epo) is a glycoprotein hormone that is the primary regulator of red blood cell production. Epo production increases in response to tissue hypoxia. This increase occurs primarily at the transcriptional level. Hypoxia inducible factor (HIF-1) is a DNA binding protein that binds to a hypoxia inducible enhancer in the 3' flanking sequence of the Epo gene. HIF-1 is a heterodimer that consists of an alpha and beta subunit. HIF-1 DNA binding activity is induced in response to hypoxia. In order to determine if one or both HIF-1 subunits is capable of ligand binding, subsequently leading to Epo production we performed co-transactivation experiments. Transfections were performed in Hep 3B, an Epo producing human hepatoma cell line and Cos-7, a non-Epo producing monkey kidney cell line. Cells were co-transfected with the 38 bp Epo enhancer fragment bearing the HIF-1 binding motif, subcloned in the luciferase reporter plasmid and either the HIF-1alpha cDNA, HIF-1beta cDNA, HIF-1alpha and HIF-1beta cDNAs or pREP-4 respectively. Cells were incubated in an hypoxic (1%O2) or normoxic (21%O2) environment and assayed for luciferase activity. Epo levels were measured in the culture media from the transfected plates by an ELISA assay. Under hypoxic conditions Hep 3B cells transfected with the HIF-1alpha cDNA alone showed a 2.2 fold increase in luciferase activity, HIF-1beta showed a 3.4 fold increase and cells transfected with HIF-1 alpha and beta showed a 6. 9 fold increase in activity over cells transfected with pREP-4. The baseline luciferase activity in transfected 3B cells incubated in normoxia was very low. However, a similar fold increase in luciferase activity in cells transfected with both HIF-1alpha and beta was noted. Under normoxic or hypoxic conditions in Cos-7 cells, a 1.5 fold increase was obtained with the HIF-1alpha and beta constructs transfected independently and a 3.5 fold increase was noted in cells transfected with both constructs. Epo levels increased several fold in all Hep 3B cells that were incubated in hypoxic conditions. However, there was no additional increase in Epo levels in transfected Hep 3B cells. We therefore conclude that although the HIF-1alpha and beta subunits can independently co-transactivate the Epo enhancer, binding of both subunits and a hypoxic environment is necessary for maximal transactivation. Overexpression of the HIF-1 protein alone in normoxic or hypoxic conditions is insufficient for an increase in Epo secretion. Activation/inactivation and interaction of other tissue specific factors is necessary for an increase in Epo gene expression in response to hypoxia.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Varma, S; Cohen, HJ

Published Date

  • August 1997

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 23 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 169 - 176

PubMed ID

  • 9236155

Pubmed Central ID

  • 9236155

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1096-0961

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1079-9796

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1006/bcmd.1997.0134


  • eng